In the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) is still pushing veteran policy forward and doing their part to help veterans across our country. Last Thursday, March 12, the committee approved several IAVA-supported bills and reauthorized Rep. Julia Brownley’s (D-CA) Women Veterans Task Force.
The action was a huge win for IAVA’s #CannanbisForVets campaign as it included the centerpiece of this campaign, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 712) to finally require the VA to research the safety and effectiveness of medicinal cannabis – questions that vets have long sought to be answered. In our most recent survey, 88% of IAVA members supported such VA research, which is why it remains a #Big6 issue. The committee also passed the Veterans Equal Access Act (H.R. 1647) which would allow veterans residing in states with legal medicinal programs to talk with their VA doctors about the usage of medicinal cannabis. Read IAVA’s press release on the passage of this legislation here.
Along with the #CannabisForVets victories, IAVA celebrated a few wins for our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign during the committee markup. The Women Veterans Task Force was established last year and is led by Rep. Brownley, with the goal of bringing more awareness to the challenges that have plagued women both in the military and when they get out. IAVA has long fought for the rights of women veterans as part of our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign and fully support the continued work of the Task Force.Along with the reauthorization, the committee passed the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act (H.R. 3798) by Rep. Brownley. This bill gives women veterans who are enrolled at VA birth control with no copay, to match their DoD and civilian counterparts.
The committee markup also included three bills related to IAVA’s VA Reform policy priority. The Long Term Care Veterans Choice Act (H.R.1527), by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), would allow VA to subsidize veterans being placed in medical foster homes (MFH), expanding options from just nursing homes or hospitals. The markup also included the Vietnam Era Veterans Hepatitis C Testing Enhancement Act (H.R. 2816), by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), which would increase VA’s ability to test Vietnam-era veterans for Hepatitis C, which they may have been exposed to during their service. Lastly, committee members approved the VET CARE Act (H.R. 2628) by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). This measure requires VA to implement a four-year pilot program that would provide dental care for Veterans with certain chronic health conditions. Currently, dental care through VA is only available to veterans with a 100% disability rating or have a direct service-connected injury. The committee passed all three bills unanimously. IAVA fully supports these pieces of legislation and applauds the committee for their continued work on behalf of veterans. The committee press release with the full list of bills passed out of the committee can be found here.
New Cosponsors for IAVA-Backed Legislation!
In addition to the committee action, we gained several new cosponsors for bills supporting our #Big6!
Thank yous go out to Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rob Wyden (D-OR) for cosponsoring the Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514).
We would also like to thank Sens. James Risch (R-ID) and Rob Wyden (D-OR) for supporting the Commander John Scott Hannon Mental Healthcare Improvement Act (S. 785)
Thank you to all our cosponsors for continuing to fight for what our veterans have earned!